By STEPHANIE PRICE
When I was pregnant a couple years back and glanced at my medical chart, they were just letters and numbers: G6P2. If you are or have ever been pregnant, you have some numbers too. I’ll tell you what they mean.
The “G” stands for “gravida,” which is a Latin word for “pregnant.” In obstetrics, a “G” and then a number means how many times a woman has been pregnant — often including the pregnancy she’s experiencing right now, the one for which we’re seeing her.
The “P,” then, stands for “parity,” a word that means, essentially, the condition of having borne children — in this case, the number of children. You might hear the term “primiparous” — abbreviated to “primip” — for a first-pregnancy mother or “multip” for a woman who’s had several pregnancies and live babies.
Oh, and I love it when I get to work with a “GRAND-multip,” or a woman who’s had, well, quite a few pregnancies and babies. (Grand-multips ARE grand.)
Today, I sit — hopefully for forever — at a G6P3, meaning I’ve been pregnant six times and given birth to three children. I’m happy to have been fruitful and multiplied, but may I never be a G7.
But did you catch that? The disparity? I’ve been pregnant six times and have given birth to a live baby only three times.
That means, friends, that three of my babies died before they were anywhere close to viable outside the womb — what we call “miscarriages” or, medically speaking, “spontaneous abortions.”
I’ve had three of them.
I’d been married all of three months when I became pregnant at age 31. It was as exciting as you’d think: watching the double pink line show up on the stick, checking it again, and feeling my then-flatter abdomen. Was there really something in there?
Because I’m crazy obsessive and love to tackle a project, I went to work on this pregnancy, birth, baby thing. I mean hard-core: I was signed up for childbirth education and learning to breathe through labor pains before I was even two months’ pregnant.
Looking back, I see a few kind people attempted to caution me. I remember one mother, a co-worker, telling me she didn’t announce her pregnancy until she was at least 12 weeks along because that’s when the risk of miscarriage dropped significantly. (She was right about that. Sixteen weeks is even better.)
I didn’t listen — way too excited and, perhaps glib and overconfident that my body, simply, would not do that. After all, I was already planning baby names and buying sleepers.
It started as a little blood on the toilet paper. “Oh no!” I thought. I’d read bleeding in pregnancy might be a variation of normal, but I knew it is often not good.
I was seeing a family physician for early prenatal care then, and she was unable to hear a heartbeat on a hand-held Doppler — not at all unusual at 10 weeks’ gestation. The kind doctor researched and prescribed not-oft-used progesterone suppositories made specially at a South Bend pharmacy. As I white-knuckle drove the miles to pick them up, I prayed.
All in all, I realize everything took about a week.
I used the suppositories two nights and didn’t notice anything different either way. It was very difficult to go about my everyday life, though I had been instructed to do.
Very early morning after the third night of using the progesterone, I woke up to some heavy, bright-red bleeding. Sinking, panicky feeling. I woke my husband.
I knew what was happening.
Because the amount of blood scared me — and, turns out, I do seem to bleed extra — we decided to go to the hospital. Long story short: Big, black area with no pin-prick heartbeat on the ultrasound confirmed what I knew. I was miscarrying my baby.
I did it right there in an exam room in the ER, something I would not recommend — though I certainly recommend you seek competent care. It was painful physically, for sure, but emotionally more than most anything I’d ever experienced in my life.
It was too early to know for sure, but I sensed the baby was a boy. We breathed the name, “Noah,” which means “rest,” and bid him into the hands of the Maker.
In weeks to come, here’s some of what I felt, which I’m pretty sure is common.
First, I was just sorrowful, that gut-wrenching kind of grief. “No!”
Then, I was angry. “No! Not right!”
Then I wondered WHAT I had done wrong. I mean, was it that Diet Coke I’d had before I knew I was pregnant? Maybe I’d bumped into something? Maybe it was more cosmic, as in I was reaping something I’d sown?
I heard and read all the party lines, the ones I occasionally tell clients now: It happens often, and most times it just means the embryo wasn’t developed right, would never have made it anyway. You did nothing wrong. It’s not your fault. It hurts. A lot. I know.
I went on to experience two more miscarriages in the three years between my son and daughter. Both miscarriages were at about five weeks and, though still painful, didn’t pack as much of an emotional blow as the first.
I won’t touch political and theological debates with a 10-foot pole — call me a coward, if you insist, but I have very good reasons — but in recent days I keep seeing headlines about Roe v. Wade, the legal precedent that, essentially, made induced abortions legal.
It’s offensive for me to hear such glee over the right to induce abortions when my own spontaneous — not-my-choice — abortion (“miscarriage”) was so painful. I know so many others’ are too. Spontaneous or induced, abortion is never good. Simply, it means death. It means sorrow.
Next week I’ll write more about the science of miscarriages and experts’ best tips for dealing with them. In the mean time, breathe your own prayer — if you’re a praying person — for the families who suffer these losses.
Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”